No, the B in LGBT does not stand for ‘Brunch’
Gay and lesbian representation in the media has definitely improved over the last handful of years. Popular television shows like Orange is the New Black and American Gods feature well-developed gay and lesbian characters, and public support of same-sex marriage in 2017 is currently at its highest in the USA and in many places across the world.
However, despite increased global awareness, it can still be very easy to overlook some members of the LGBTQ+ community who are still struggling for visibility: bisexuals.
This is called bisexual erasure, and it’s a problem. Bisexual Erasure is when “the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright.” Common examples of bisexual erasure are wrapped up in the belief that people cannot ‘be’ bisexual, and those who identify that way are simply ‘seeking attention’ or ‘confused.’
This erasure results in something called bi invisibility, which I personally experience. I am a bisexual woman with a straight boyfriend, but when people see us out and about holding hands they assume I am straight. Were I holding hands with a girlfriend, people would assume I was a lesbian.
In both examples my bisexuality is not considered an option, and rendered invisible. Now, this part I cannot stress enough: I do not magically become heterosexual or homosexual based on my partner. Whether or not I am dating a man or a woman (be they cisgender or transgender) does not change my bisexual identity. Even if I were to get married, it would not alter who I am, or serve as proof that I “chose a side”.
Often bisexual people are told to just “pick one,” or asked the ever-aggravating question “who do you like more, boys or girls?”
Identifying as bisexual comes with some harsh territory. Bisexual women are seen as overly promiscuous and untrustworthy, while bisexual men are told they just haven’t realised they’re gay yet.
Often in the media, bisexual female characters are reduced to depicting a woman on woman sexual fantasy for the viewer, rather than being portrayed as real three-dimensional people, while male bisexual characters are almost nonexistent.
Bisexuality makes people uncomfortable. It pushes them to acknowledge that there are more sexual identities to choose from than just straight and gay. I’ve had moments where I felt identifying as one or the other would make things easier so I wouldn’t feel judged.
This is not to say that gay and lesbian people have it easy – they don’t. Gay and lesbian couples still face violence around the world and it would be foolish of me to not recognise I have the privilege to pass as straight when I’m in public with my boyfriend.
However, this does not mean we should allow bisexual erasure to continue. Bisexuality is a real and valid sexual orientation, which deserves the same level of recognition as other LGBTQ+ sexualities.
If a friend or loved one tells you they are bisexual, offer them your support instead of telling them they’re confused or lying. Remember that sexuality exists on a spectrum and you should extend the same level of acceptance to others that you would want in return.